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Tips for Communicating with Older Adults Living with Hearing Loss

Tips for Communicating with Older Adults Living with Hearing Loss

The ability to communicate with one another is a core need to feel connected to the world around us. While people at any age can experience hearing loss, it is more common among older adults. Statistically speaking, approximately 40.3% of adults over 75 years old experience hearing loss, making communication more and more difficult as the condition may worsen over time. Here are our top tips for communicating with these elders: 

Speak in a low tone.

Higher pitched voices are more difficult to hear with clarity. Try speaking in a lower tone than normal to assist the elder in hearing you more clearly. Avoid the temptation to shout, this doesn't do much to help the situation except potentially stir irritation.

Speak face-to-face.

You have probably learned that trying to speak to someone who is hard of hearing is nearly impossible from the other room, or even from across the room. If you wish to increase the probability that clear communication takes place, place yourself squarely in front of the elder with adequate lighting on your face where they can benefit from watching your mouth as you speak. Lip reading can be a great way to supplement the impact of hearing loss.

Avoid talking too fast.

Talking too quickly can cause some sounds to blend together, making words indistinguishable from one another. Slow down slightly while being careful to also speak normally. Always ensure you show them dignity and respect as you seek to be heard. Avoid the temptation to speak loudly and annoyingly slow as though you are speaking to a small child. Unfortunately, this approach often causes embarrassment for the elder. The real trick is to speak just a little slower, adding a little extra enunciation behind each word.

Provide added clarity.

There are many ways you might support better communication with tools and intentional body language. A multitude of gestures can supplement the conversation in ways that leave them more confident. For example, when talking about a new grandbaby, point to a picture of the child before you launch into the story. Or gesture towards the car as you ask if they'd like to take a drive. Also, consider using paper and pen to write key things down to help them follow along. Lastly, remember if you are attempting to spell something, this can be especially tricky because there are many letters in the alphabet that can sound far too similar. Try saying things like, "N as in November," to add more confidence to the exchange.

Say their name.

Those living with hearing loss benefit greatly when they can focus fully on the person who is speaking to them. Therefore, try saying their name prior to launching into your message so they can have a moment to turn their full attention to you. Walking up to them and blurting out a full paragraph before they even realize you are talking to them is sure to leave both parties a bit frustrated. Starting with their name each time you are addressing them gives you both the assurance they are ready to receive what you have to say.

Turn down background noise.

Conversations competing with other background noise like a loud television or radio can be far too much for a person with hearing loss to handle. By eliminating other noises, there is a greater chance they'll be able to hear what you are saying with greater sound clarity. For this reason, some restaurants can be especially difficult. Be mindful to plan outings with this in mind. Loud music, echoing acoustics, or clanging sounds from an open kitchen leave them unable to engage in a fruitful conversation.

Ask for their feedback.

Finally, take your best tips from them. Ask the elder what adaptations you can implement that could make communicating a little easier. It could be as simple as identifying which ear is the best so you can position yourself accordingly. Simple adjustments can be made in most cases and the elder is often the best person to solicit for that feedback.

Connecting with one another is critically important to the human experience and an effort that can result in sweet moments with those we care about. Hopefully these pointers are helpful for you as you seek to communicate with the older adults in your life who are living with hearing loss.

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